Nearly everyone has been fired at least once – it’s part of the employment landscape for those who’ve changed jobs often, the chute in the game of Chutes and Ladders. And thanks to the ambiguous language of most such separations we get to say we parted on friendly terms, or we weren’t the right fit at that particular gig. But what do you say on the second or third job interview when someone wants to know what really went down?

“Don’t ever lie,” says Shauna Moerke, an HR person for a medical software company who blogs as HR Minion. “Employment verification will bring things up.” Fortunately your past employer has to be careful about what they say; when it comes to talking about previous employees you can expect them to act like Joe Friday: Just the facts, ma’am – title, tenure, salary.

That’s why your new potential employer is asking you. “Don’t be afraid to offer an explanation,” says Moerke; if it was a question of attendance, for instance, you might say, “I was having some medical problems that have since been resolved.” But don’t over-share; no one wants to hear the details of your shingles or the depths of your depression. Keep it short and professional. “If they are seriously considering you they won’t exclude you for that alone.”